Katiebabs is a self-proclaimed present day bluestocking with her head always in a book. She runs her own book blog called Babbling about Books and More!
Rich, decadent and flavorful are only a few words that come to mind when I read a Laura Florand novel. Most of her books deals with food in one way or another, but with Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses #1), we have a nice switch where roses are in the spotlight, and a hero who loves working with them, and literately smells like roses (not sandalwood like heroes of ye olde romance). Laura has a way with words, which is golden in every piece of dialogue and the way the characters act. The hero and heroine are delightful here, as well as the setting.
Layla is on a road trip in France. She’s in hiding, so to speak because of the stress of the spotlight. Some would say she’s a famous singer because her debut album won a Grammy. But Layla isn’t rolling in money or being chased by the press. She just loves to play her guitar and write music. But now the words and music won’t come to her, which leads to more stress because she must start working on her second album in a few weeks. She has come to the south of France because a relative on her grandfather’s side (someone she has never met) has left her a piece of property, complete with a house. But there’s a big problem. It’s smack in the middle of a valley run by Matthieu, who creates perfume with the roses he grows there. He runs the family operation with his male cousins, all of which own a part also.
Layla has no idea what she’s getting herself into, especially when she stumbles into a celebration. It’s Matt’s 30th birthday, and he’s very tipsy. When he spies Layla in his drunks state, he nicknames her Bouclettes for Layla’s halo of wonderful curls, and he claims her as his girlfriend. Layla thinks he’s adorable, but he’s usually not this playful. The next day when Matt is sober (and hung over), he’s rude, surly and too gruff. But he also has a problem of blushing too much. He can’t believe his great-aunt, who is still living, gave her house and land to Layla. He’s afraid Layla will sell it to some hotel, destroying his home and his valley of roses. He has to talk her out of selling, which Layla hasn’t even considered. He goes out of his way to fix things in her new home, and as he gets to know her, and she him, they both find a connection with one another that grows stronger every hour they’re together. Both are confused by their feelings, knowing this crazy attraction they have for one another will lead to more problems because Layla never meant to settle down here. Plus she has to find a way to reveal to Matt who she is. Plus, Matt once dated someone famous who eroded his self-esteem because she made him feel beastly and foolish in the eyes of the press.
Once Upon a Rose is a feel good romance, mainly because of how Layla and Matt interact with one another. Matt, like most Florand heroes, has body issues, as in he thinks he’s too manly, large, hairy, uncouth, etc… for the likes of the sweet and womanly soft heroine. Matt is all thumbs when it comes to Layla, who turns his world upside down. Her sunny nature, and too many smiles to count (the word “smile” is very overused when it comes to Layla) irks Matt because he doesn’t know how to act around her. Matt is all bark and no bite, which is very endearing. Layla is Little Mary Sunshine, whose biggest worry is trying to get her musical mojo back. The biggest tension is how Matt will react when he finds out that Layla isn’t some run of a mill singer trying to make ends meet with her music. That is the biggest hurdle for these two. The angst level is pretty low, even though Matt acts like the sky is falling most of the time. But these strange quirks of Matt’s are cute, and Layla seems to be the only one who calms him.
The love scenes crackle with heat. I can’t find anything wrong with them. Laura writes great sex! She makes a great case for Layla to chuck everything and stay with Matt and his roses. One Upon a Rose is a great little story that has a nice fairy tale feel set in a beautiful foreign landscape you wished you could visit ASAP.